New Home Brewer

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by joeyjoey104, Jul 22, 2015.

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  1. joeyjoey104

    joeyjoey104 Initiate (0) Aug 2, 2014 California

    Hi All,

    I'm going to start home brewing after assisting my friend with his own home brewing adventures for the past year or so. He is a lot more established with regards to his equipment, and has definitely spent quite a bit after doing it for a few years now.

    What would be your recommendations for finding equipment on the cheap? Websites, stores, etc... I'd like to keep my batches quite small, around 3 gallons instead of the typical 5.

    I know I'll need a Car Boy and a brewing Kettle first and foremost. Will probably go with 5 gallon for each, in case I ever want to do a larger batch in the future. Then a Scale to measure hops, Wort Cooler, Brush for the inside of Carboy, Gravity Scale, anything else I'm missing for completing my first batch?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. JohnSnowNW

    JohnSnowNW Initiate (0) Feb 6, 2013 Minnesota

    Sounds like you'll be doing extract, or possibly BIAB, am I right?

    If you think you'll ever brew a 5 gallon batch, you'll need to purchase larger than a 5 gallon pot...that is if you want to do full boils. Aluminum pots are quite economical, and there are plenty to choose from online, ex. Amazon.

    You can go with a carboy, but you'd probably be just as happy with using a bucket, and they're considerably cheaper. Alternatively, you could use a plastic carboy as those can be had for more than a bucket, but less than a glass carboy.

    You'll also need to buy some StarSan for sanitizing, and look into PBW or OxiClean Free for cleaning.

    A large brewing spoon would be something to consider, maybe consider also purchasing a refractometer to go along with your hydrometer.

    Down the road you may want to consider investing in yeast and temperature management.
  3. joeyjoey104

    joeyjoey104 Initiate (0) Aug 2, 2014 California

    That is interesting, my friend has a 5 gallon kettle and it worked just fine for his home brews. I would prefer investing in quality up front for a little more of a cost, so I would probably go for glass carboys and steel kettle.

    Spoon is a good one I forgot about and Sanitizer. Need to look into a refractometer...

    Can you not do all-grain with only 3 gallon batches? I'd prefer to do all grain using the steeping bags.
  4. JohnSnowNW

    JohnSnowNW Initiate (0) Feb 6, 2013 Minnesota

    Well if you're doing full-boils you have to have more water in the pot than your batch size, since you'll lose volume to evaporation. Obviously, you can add water post-boil, but that will have an impact on hop utilization and color. Not maxing out your pot will also lower the potential for boil-overs.

    A glass carboy really isn't of greater quality than a bucket or plastic carboy. I personally use Better Bottles for all of my fermentations, and have moved away from glass. Glass is a pain to move and clean, and some will probably chime in that they can be more hazardous. For instance, try a google image search for "glass carboy injury."

    A SS pot is fine, but yes they will run a bit higher.

    You can certainly do all-grain for 3 gallon batches, though technically I believe you are talking about BIAB (Brew-in-a-Bag) method.
  5. joeyjoey104

    joeyjoey104 Initiate (0) Aug 2, 2014 California

    Yes, brew in a bag method would be my preferred method, with maybe half extract if need be. However, if I'm only brewing 3 gallons, wouldn't I not need as much malt, therefore not needing extract, or could you possibly still need extract with BIAB method?

    I know last time I brewed we did half BIAB and then half extract. But that was for 5 gallons. Not sure how the scaling will be with the different batch size. That is another issue I'll have to deal with, as I know most recipes are for 5 gallons.
  6. scottakelly

    scottakelly Zealot (502) May 9, 2007 Ohio

    Agree with others that if you want to do 5 gallon batches, your kettle should be larger than 5 gallons. 7 gallons minimum.

    If cost is a concern I think your logic is flawed that glass carboys are better than buckets and steel kettles better than aluminum. They are simply different, not better. Sexier looking maybe. Glass has the potential to break too.

    No carboy means no need to buy a carboy brush.

    I never use my wort chiller either. I cut a 55 gallon drum I'm half and place my 15 gallon kettle in it with a garden hose. I get 10 gallon batches cooled in less than 30 minutes.
  7. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Devotee (488) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    I'd recommend 2 buckets or carboys, I am a bucket fan. That way if you have to rack to secondary , or, you want to brew before your first beer is bottled you can. I prefer stainless steel for cleaning vs alluminum, never knew it was sexy! And get a wort chiller of some kind for sure. Again I prefer stainless steel. Also a bottleing bucket unless your kegging.
  8. JohnSnowNW

    JohnSnowNW Initiate (0) Feb 6, 2013 Minnesota

    You'll still be limited in the amount of grain you can mash by the volume of the pot. So it would depend on the OG of the beer you're trying to produce as to whether you can make it without adding some extract. This would be another reason to go for a larger pot. You'll absolutely have an easier time making the beer you want with the ability to do full-boils, and limiting the need to add extract.

    It would also be beneficial to invest in, or rather just look into, some brewing software. There are ones out there that can scale recipes for you. I, and many of us here, use Brewcipher. It is free and was developed by a member here.
    CurtFromHershey likes this.
  9. KeyWestGator

    KeyWestGator Zealot (535) Jan 21, 2013 Florida

    The first few all grain batches I did were 3 gallon BIAB and there's no way the full starting volume of water plus grain would fit in a 5 gallon pot.
    In my amateur opinion, you have a few options if you want to stick with a 5 gallon pot. You could mash at a more normal grain to water and sparge your grain with an appropriate amount of water to start your boil. Still would be very full at start of boil with high risk of boil over.
    Or do a partial mash BIAB and add DME to the boil to get to the gravity you want, as previously suggested.
    Or, the worst option, do less than a full volume boil and add water post boil to get your desired volume.
  10. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Poo-Bah (2,503) May 21, 2010 Texas

    Five gallons is about enough to do a three gallon batch. So a five gallon carboy or kettle will not allow your future expansion. Here's what I suggest commonly on these threads:

    Wait till the day after thanksgiving and buy a turkey fryer. Gives you plenty of BTUs, a plenty big enough pot to do a full 5 to 5.5 gallon batch (including your dead spaces along the way), basically gets you set for the boil, a full boil, a good rolling boil. Just don't fry turkeys in it, that's all I ask. :rolling_eyes: When you first get it, youneedta boil some water in the aluminum pan to get it "seasoned." Perhaps someone else can elaborate on that.

    If you want to ferment in a carboy you'll be somewhat limited with even a 6.5 gallon carboy, and will frequently have to use a blowoff tube. The slightly short 8 gallon buckets kick ass (if you can find them, but they exist and surely someone's selling them somewhere). The standard 6.5 gallon buckets also kick ass. Secondaries are not usually necessary but you should probably have at least one carboy just in case. Truthfully tho, my 5 gal glass carboy is generally for bottling and I've only secondaried or lagered in it a few times.

    Wort cooler - GREAT! awesome thing to have. But remember, it's just coiled copper tubing, it doesn't have to be fancy it just needs to have the capacity to exchange heat efficiently. There's another thing about wort coolers too - they will only cool to the temperature of the water going through them. So if you live in Texas, you can pretty much be assured that you WON'T get tapwater cool enough to get your wort to pitching temperature. Thus you may need a pre-chiller too. It's real easy tho. I just found another coil of copper and worked it to fit inside a typical cooler or bucket. I use tap water to chill the wort until it gets down to about 100-110 degrees or so*. At that point the cooling slows down big time, so then I dump ice over the pre-chiller, and the wort chills to below 70F (i.e. pitching temperature) no problem. Obviously put the pre-chiller before the wort chiller. :rolling_eyes:

    So anyway, use realism and thrift when figuring out your wort chiller arrangement.

    Scales are needed but they're way cheep and the accuracy you need for brewing is not hard to find.

    Get and keep several gravity scales and accept the fact that they break easily and you'll probably wind up breaking one so it's better to have two.

    Even bigger "same deal" on the thermometers. Have at least two that operate in different ways. Luckily, the thermometer that comes on a cheep day-after-thanksgiving turkey fryer will probably have a very standard thermometer that I have found to work fantastically. Most importantly, it doesn't require batteries either. There are fancier therms, and perhaps you should even have an array of these high-tech gadgets. But keep a low-tech thermometer handy too. You'll either thank me later or you'll be posting later "I shoulda listened to al on that thermometer thing." And calibrate them. If they're un-calibratable, they may still be usable (say a cheep turkey fryer thermometer reads sea-level boiling as 217F and freezing at 5F... easy to make the adjustment). Accuracy is needed, but within reason is probably going to be good enough too. You don't want your mash off by five degrees, but off by two tenths of a degree... now you're wasting time with pointless details.

    Tripel dubbel ditto on having TWO propane canisters at all times. I'm not even going to harp on this because chances are you'll do the same thing we all have already (probably several times lol) and run out of gas. Make sure to post it so we can all laugh!! :grinning:

    And have you considered temperature control? Where do you live? Where are you going to ferment? What's the ambient temperature there? Coolest room in the house and maximum ambient temperature there? More than half the US I would declare "needs a freezer/controller setup" for a fermentation chamber, unless many caveats. The bottom line for me is I live in Tx and without a freezer/controller I would be extremely limited to pretty much saisons because it's just too darn hot here.

    If you want to go all grain, you probably should. If you've been following another brewer and have a good idea of the fundamentals, all grain is easy. You need a cooler and a bazooka tube and some hardware. Most any cooler will do, round and tall or short and rectangular. A five gallon water cooler will limit your batch size for ABVs over about 7.5, but I've had one forever and it's really just fine. But a ten gallon rectangular cooler is probably cheaper and you may already have one laying around. Get the largest bazooka tube that fits in there nicely (within reason / your budget) and take a trip to your local hardware store. Whamo, mash tun.

    Starsan / oxyclean / pbw. Check. Something very soft to clean buckets with, something that won't scratch the bucket. Get a plastic scrubbie and make sure it's softer than your buckets and not being used to clean your grill between beer batches. :rolling_eyes:

    Others can elaborate on other important points. I'm afraid I have important business to attend to. I need a beer ...

    *note: if you wait, a small amount of ice can do the job of getting the wort down the last 30 degrees or so. But warm tapwater can easily melt a whole bag of ice before your wort is cool enough, so waiting to dump the ice onto your prechiller is a good plan
    #10 AlCaponeJunior, Jul 22, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2015
  11. Avelasquez80

    Avelasquez80 Initiate (0) Jul 9, 2015 Texas

    I'll tell you what, I found a hydrometer online on Ebay for $19 bucks with free shipping, granted it came from China but I bet any store that sells them or any online HBS store gets them from China, and this thing works exactly how it should! Online they from a retailer, it'll run you like $59! Save some money where you can! I know Northern Brewer has a pretty cool Quad set you can buy if you want to start off small and experiment a little.
  12. Crusader

    Crusader Disciple (324) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I bought a regular thermometer along with the first equipment but after seeing how slow it was to gauge the temp of the mash I considered it to be useless and went with the digital thermometer instead. Worked fine with the first batch. With the second batch I was cooling the wort in an ice bath in the sink with lots of ice but the damned wort wouldn't drop in temperature below 27C in over 40 minutes and I was starting to run low on ice. At that point I scooped some wort from the pot with a sanitized spoon and it turned out the wort was cold, I went and grabbed the regular thermometer and stuck it in the wort (after sanitizing it) and it showed 10C. I'll be using a digital thermometer for the mash (not this particular one if I find that it's been wrecked) and a regular one for the wort cooling stage from now on.
    #12 Crusader, Jul 23, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  13. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (1,956) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

  14. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Aspirant (222) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

  15. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (291) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    dmtaylor likes this.
  16. gamely

    gamely Initiate (0) Jul 16, 2015 China

    Sounds great.
  17. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (1,956) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    My experience is different. I have used two of these for several years, without a hitch. To tell the truth, this is the first complaint I've ever heard about a thermapen.
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